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Trump-Biden transition updates: Trump unlikely to issue pardons for self, family

Bet_Noire/iStock
Bet_Noire/iStock

By CATHERINE THORBECKE and IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump has two full days left in office before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

Here is how events are unfolding. All times Eastern:

Jan 18, 9:06 pm
Biden, Harris to honor lives lost to COVID

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will mark the lives lost to COVID-19 in a special event in Washington the night before the inauguration, according to their transition team.

The two will speak at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on Tuesday evening, according to a schedule.

As of Monday evening, 398,879 Americans have died from the coronavirus, according to data from John Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center.

Jan 18, 7:57 pm
‘Field of Flags’ lights up National Mall

The Biden Presidential Inaugural Committee began its transformation of the National Mall ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony with a special light decoration Monday evening.

Fifty-six pillars of light, representing the 56 U.S. states and territories, illuminate a “Field of Flags” public art display.

The display includes nearly 200,000 U.S. flags meant to represent the Americans who are not able to travel to the inauguration due to COVID-19.

The lights were turned on ahead of the “United We Serve” event being held later Monday evening. The event commemorates Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jan 18, 4:53 pm

Trump unlikely to issue self pardon or pardons for his family: Sources

The president is unlikely to issue pre-emptive pardons to his children and other close associates, despite weeks of internal battles among White House aides, sources with knowledge of the conversations confirmed to ABC News. The sources went on to say that they do not expect Trump to issue a pardon for himself. The sources noted the conversations have been fluid and the president has been known to change his mind at times.  

Trump has been encouraged by allies to issue pardons to his children and himself over fears of possible criminal investigations, specifically after Trump’s call with Georgia state officials regarding the 2020 election results and after Trump and members of his family spoke at a rally held on the National Mall that incited the riot on Capitol Hill.

The list of pardons the Trump administration is expected to issue in the final hours of Trump’s presidency is growing smaller, with sources saying the final list could amount to just over 100.  

-ABC News’ John Santucci and Katherine Faulders

Jan 18, 4:29 pm

Biden advisers met with national security officials on inauguration security

Members of Biden’s national and homeland security teams met via video conference with current career and acting agency heads to discuss inaugural security, the Biden team announced in a readout of the call on Monday. 

Led by incoming homeland security adviser Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall and temporary adviser to the transition on homeland security Lisa Monaco, the group discussed the “current operational posture for the Washington, D.C. region and the nation,” though little information was shared about the actual content of the call.

“Career officials from the National Security Council, the Secret Service, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of State, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Defense and other agencies briefed participants on the current security situation and the pace of interagency coordination with state, local, and industry partners,” the readout said. “Participants affirmed the importance of continued close coordination in the period leading up to and including Inauguration Day.”

Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday is expected to be unlike any other, featuring an unprecedented level of security as well as a slew of pandemic precautions. 

 -ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Jan 18, 3:46 pm

Melania Trump bids farewell to White House in Twitter video 

First lady Melania Trump on Monday afternoon tweeted a nearly seven-minute long farewell video looking back on her time in the White House. 

She said serving as first lady has been “the greatest honor of my life” and reflected on her “Be Best” initiative, work combatting the opioid crisis and more. 

 

 

“No words can express the depth of my gratitude for the privilege of having served as your first lady,” she said. “To all the people of this country, you will be in my heart forever. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”

Her video comes just under two weeks after Trump supporters violently sieged the Capitol building and just days before Biden’s inauguration. 

In her farewell message to Americans, the first lady said, “Be passionate in everything you do. But always remember that violence is never the answer and will never be justified.” 

-ABC News’ Elizabeth Thomas

Jan 18, 3:37 pm

Harris visits DC nonprofit to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day

To mark the holiday celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Vice President-elect Kamala Harris participated in a service activity focused on food insecurity in the nation’s capital on Monday. 

She packed bags of food alongside her husband Doug Emhoff at Martha’s Table, an initiative focused on increasing access to healthy meals in Southeast Washington.

“I think it’s so important to remember that Dr. King was killed in large part, I believe, because he was on the verge of bringing together the Civil Rights movement around racial justice with the fight for economic justice,” Harris said. “And when we look at where we are as a country today, when we look at recent events, we know that the fight that Dr. King was engaged in is still a fight in America, which is to recognize the connection and to recognize our collective responsibility to address these injustices.”

She also spoke about the tasks ahead as she prepares to become vice president, saying she and Biden are going into Wednesday “ready to do the work.”

“And we’ve got a lot of work to do,” she added, referencing plans for vaccinations and economic recovery.

When asked if their proposed one-time $1,400 stimulus check was enough for Americans, Harris called it a “start.”

“There’s a lot more to do, which is why there are so many other components to our relief package and the work that we are committed to doing going forward,” she said.

Finally, Harris spoke about how she’s feeling ahead of her historic swearing-in, which has faced unprecedented security threats. 

“I am very much looking forward to be sworn in as the next vice president of the United States, and I will walk there, to that moment, proudly with my head up and my shoulders back,” Harris said.

-ABC News’ Averi Harper

Jan 18, 2:47 pm

Garth Brooks to perform at inauguration

Country singer Garth Brooks will be joining the Biden inauguration celebration on Wednesday and perform during Biden’s swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Monday.

Brooks has performed for every president since Jimmy Carter, with the exception of Ronald Reagan. 

He will join previously announced performers Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez. During the virtual press conference, Brooks stressed that his decision to perform at the Capitol was not a political one, but one focused on unity — a message that the Biden administration has pushed as they get ready to enter office. 

“I am a civilian of the greatest country on the planet,” Brooks said. “So our job is to work as hard as we can for all of us to have a better future than before.” 

Brooks even quipped that he “might be the only Republican” at the inauguration, but said he wanted to move past the divided nature of the country.  

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Jan 18, 2:24 pm

Alex Padilla resigns as Calif. secretary of state to assume Harris’ senate seat

Alex Padilla officially resigned as California’s secretary of state on Monday in order to assume Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Senate seat. 

Harris resigned her Senate seat earlier Monday. 

Padilla called it a “true honor and privilege” to serve as California’s secretary of state in a statement reflecting on the agency’s progress over the past six years. 

“As I prepare to enter the United States Senate, I will carry on the mission of building a more inclusive democracy and economy for all,” Padilla added. 

James Schwab, the former chief deputy secretary of state in California, will serve as interim secretary of state.

-ABC News’ Kendall Karson

Jan 18, 1:43 pm
21,500 National Guardsmen convene in nation’s capital ahead of inauguration

More than 21,500 National Guardsmen are currently in Washington, the D.C. Guard confirmed to ABC News on Monday.

The security preparations come ahead of Biden’s inauguration and in the aftermath of the deadly Capitol raid conducted by Trump supporters earlier this month.

The ramp-up in the number of guardsmen in the nation’s capital means there could be four times as many American military service members in the city than there are in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

The guardsmen are working in shifts to provide round-the-clock security both inside the Capitol and around the perimeter of the Capitol grounds.

Jan 18, 11:49 am
Bidens stop by Philly hunger relief organization

The president-elect and his wife, Jill Biden, stopped by Philabundance, the largest hunger relief organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Monday morning.

The Bidens stopped by the nonprofit food bank to mark the National Day of Service, a holiday that encourages volunteering in your community in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

The president-elect did not take questions about security risks surrounding Inauguration Day.

They were accompanied by their daughter, Ashley, and granddaughter, Finnegan.

The president-elect posed for selfies outside of the building with some masked supporters before the event began.

Clad in his signature aviators and a Philabundance ball cap, Biden was seen sorting canned goods into food boxes at a conveyer belt set up outside the parking lot. His wife also helped out by adding packages of rice to the boxes.

Jan 18, 10:31 am
Capitol building rocked by exterior security threat

The U.S. Capitol building was rocked by an exterior security threat Monday morning that required evacuations from the west front and the crypt.

A loudspeaker announcement blared, urging people inside to stay away from exterior windows.

It is not immediately clear what the threat is.

The threat comes just weeks after a mob of Trump supporters violently raided the building, resulting in the death of five people, and just days ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

Jan 18, 10:10 am
Kamala Harris announces resignation from Senate seat in op-ed

Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect, announced her resignation from the Senate in order to take on the role of vice president via an op-ed in her local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle.

Harris writes that serving as California’s senator “has been an honor” and but pledged “this is not goodbye,” emphasizing her new role helping Democrats win close votes in the Senate.

She touched on issues that have plagued California in recent years — including wildfires, racial injustice and COVID-19 — and highlighted how her office has worked “tirelessly for the people of California” during such difficult times.

“As I resign from the Senate, I am preparing to take an oath that would have me preside over it. As senator-turned-Vice-President Walter Mondale once pointed out, the vice presidency is the only office in our government that ‘belongs to both the executive branch and the legislative branch,'” she wrote. “A responsibility made greater with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.”
 
“Since our nation’s founding, only 268 tie-breaking votes have been cast by a Vice President. I intend to work tirelessly as your Vice President, including, if necessary, fulfilling this Constitutional duty,” she added. “At the same time, it is my hope that rather than come to the point of a tie, the Senate will instead find common ground and do the work of the American people.”

Jan 18, 10:10 am
Biden’s team outlines immediate priorities as Senate trial looms large over Washington

Inauguration week has finally arrived. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump is slated to hand over control of the White House to President-elect Joe Biden.

Over the weekend, the incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klein outlined what the president-elect’s immediate priorities will be when he takes office, saying he intends to sign a slew of executive actions. Biden will ask the Department of Education to extend the existing pause on student loan payments and interest, move to re-join the U.S. into the Paris Climate Agreement that Trump withdrew from, and end Trump’s immigration ban from some Muslim-majority countries, according to Klain. Moreover, Biden will issue a mask mandate on federal property and interstate travel to tackle the pandemic.

On Monday, the president-elect and the future first lady, Jill Biden, will be honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day by volunteering at Philabundance, a hunger relief organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, an impeachment looms large during Trump’s final days in office in the wake of his supporters violently mobbing the U.S. Capitol building earlier this month.

On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., defended Trump during an appearance on Fox News, saying he doesn’t blame him for telling his supporters to head to the Capitol.

“How in the hell could that happen? Where was Nancy Pelosi?” Graham said. “It’s her job to provide Capitol security,” even though the attackers appeared to be trying to track her down.

He also urged fellow GOP Senators to not impeach Trump.

“And to my Republican colleagues in the Senate, if we embrace an unconstitutional impeachment of Donald Trump after he is out of office, it will destroy the party,” he said. “The Republican Party wants to move forward. President Trump’s going to be the most important voice in the Republican Party for a long time to come.”

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